Sexual Violence in Aotearoa New Zealand

Due to its hidden nature, it can be difficult to gather an accurate picture of the problem of sexual violence as it is often not reported, which means that statistics may fail to reflect the problem in full. There have been many research projects in Aotearoa New Zealand which show a high prevalence of sexual violence in our communities.

Research on sexual violence and its prevalence suggests that:

  • In Aotearoa New Zealand, up to one in three girls will be subject to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16 years. The majority of those incidences would be considered serious, with over 70% involving genital contact1.
  • In Aotearoa New Zealand, up to one in five women will experience sexual assault as an adult2.
  • For Maori girls and women the likelihood of sexual violence is nearly twice as high as the general population3. Pacific and migrant women are also at statistically greater risk of sexual violence4.
  • There are varying rates for sexual violence offences against males but large scale international prevalence studies have tended to find a figure of one in seven boys.
  • Repeat sexual violence is a serious issue, with over 25% of adults in victimisation surveys reporting more than one incident, and qualitative research finding that survivors with a history of repeat victimisation are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and have high and complex needs. For women, experiencing child sexual abuse increases the likelihood of revictimisation in adulthood of both intimate partner violence and sexual violence5. There is currently a lack of comparable research in Aotearoa New Zealand on the experiences and effects of sexual victimsation of boys.
  • Young people are statistically at the highest risk of sexual assault; the age group 16-24 years being at the highest risk of sexual assault in any age group6.
  • In opposition to widespread myths about stranger rape, it is estimated that 90% of sexual violence is committed by someone known to the victim/survivor7.
  • Reporting of sexual violence in New Zealand is very low, with an estimated 9% of incidents ever reported to police8.
  • Sexual violence has a very low conviction rate in Aotearoa New Zealand, with only 13% of cases recorded by the Police resulting in conviction9.
  • Media reporting on issues of sexual violence is often under-informed and defends public myths and misconceptions about the dynamics of sexual violence. This misinformation affects society’s shared understanding of and attitudes to sexual violence, promoting false narratives and rape-supportive attitudes in society10.
  • In the United Nations Report on the Status of Women published in 2011, Aotearoa New Zealand was ranked worst of all OECD countries in rates of sexual violence11.



1 Fanslow, JL., Robinson, EM., Crengle, S., Perese, L. (2007). Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women.

2 Fanslow, JL. and Robinson, EM. (2004). Violence against Women in New Zealand: Prevalence and health consequences. New Zealand Medical Journal, 117 (1206).

3 Mayhew, P. and Reilly, J., (2009). Ministry of Justice, The New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey 2006.

4 Ministry of Justice. 2009. Te Toiora Mata Tauherenga: Report of the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence. Wellington: Ministry of Justice.

5 Ministry of Women’s  Affairs (2012). Lightning Does Strike Twice: Preventing Sexual Revictimsation.

6 Clark, T.C., Robinson, E., Crengle, S., Grant, S., Galbreath, R.A. & Sykora, J. (2009). Youth’07: The health and wellbeing of secondary school students in New Zealand: Findings on young people and violence. Auckland: The University of Auckland.

7 Morris, A., et al. (2003) The New Zealand National Survey of Crime Victims 2001. Ministry of Justice, Wellington.

8 Ministry of Women’s Affairs (2009). Restoring Soul: Effective Interventions for adult victims/survivors of sexual violence. MWA: Wellington.

9 Triggs, S., Mossman, E., Jordan, J. & Kingi, V. (2009). Responding to Sexual Violence: Attrition in the New Zealand criminal justice system. Wellington: viii.

10 Wood, N. and Dickson, S. (2013). Reporting Sexual Violence in Aotearoa New Zealand. Tauiwi Prevention Project, TOAH-NNEST.

11 United Nations Women (2011). Progress of the World’s Women: in pursuit of justice. Geneva: United Nations.